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Chapter 14: To the Capital of the Empire (1)

‘It’s been a while since I’ve been here.’

The guild was still bustling as ever.

Perhaps because she has been holed up in the mountains for so long, this lively scene seemed novel to Lien, who looked around curiously.

Walking alongside Lien, I soon spotted a very familiar face.

“Siel!”

As I called out, our eyes met.

Siel, as if to show she was here, lifted her heels and waved her hand high above.

Her expression was still blank, but her gesture exuded warmth.

“Are you feeling alright? Have you finished all your tasks?”

Siel pondered my question for a moment before responding.

“It’s complicated.”

An answer that seemed to dodge the specifics, but given our time together, I could somewhat grasp what Siel meant.

It was, in a way, expected. Siel was staggering around in a peculiar state.

She must have paid her respects at the tomb, but her body hadn’t fully recovered.

‘I should have stopped her from making that fraudulent contract back then.’

The thought crossed my mind.

Of course, Siel might have exerted herself on the way back from the tomb. But to have such severe aftereffects from just that seemed excessive.

One might think she had battled hundreds of dark mages alone.

“Just wait here. I’ll go buy some medicine.”

“…Medicine?”

Siel echoed back.

Indeed, it’s not like we have health insurance here.

Naturally, the medicine would be more expensive than anticipated. It would likely consume a significant portion of the money we had made from looting the warehouse last time.

But that didn’t matter to me.

There’s a way to make money, after all.

The reason I’m heading to the capital now is to deal with the mastermind and secure a financial backer.

It would be a greater loss if Siel couldn’t exert her strength when it’s really needed in the capital because I saved money now.

‘Besides, I need to buy various other supplies.’

There’s no reason to hesitate then. 

The shops will close soon, so I told Siel I would be back and quickly left the guild.

I felt like I was forgetting something, but it probably wasn’t important.

*****

In the suffocating atmosphere.

Siel blankly stared at Lien, who was desperately avoiding her gaze.

“Who are you?”

At that, Lien’s pupils started shaking wildly.

Lien hurriedly began to explain the situation, how Ian had invited her to accompany him, how they met, and so on.

The more she spoke, the more her voice trembled.

Lien felt like she was going insane. She had heard that there was a comrade named Siel.

Knowing what kind of person Ian was, she realized that this person must also have feelings for Ian.

That’s why Lien’s conscience was pricking her.

What should she say? She felt like a villainess who had enchanted a man who was already taken.

She couldn’t look Siel in the eye.

And after hearing everything Lien said...

“Wolf, please be gentle and don’t hurt her.”

Siel suddenly attacked Lien.

A black shadow morphed into the shape of a beast. Instinctively, Lien drew her sword to block it.

Confused about the situation, Lien saw Siel ponder for a moment before...

“You’re strong. That’s good enough.”

She sat back down and started nibbling on her bread again, like a munching rabbit.

Lien felt like she was about to lose her mind. She couldn’t understand what was happening at all.

“What... was that just now?”

“...? I was just testing if you were strong enough to be of help.”

“Why test me like that?”

“Didn’t Ian tell you?”

It was incomprehensible.

Siel, lost in thought for a moment with a blank expression, handed over a wanted poster she had torn off earlier.

The name on the wanted poster was well-known even to Lien.

The Black Fangs. A mysterious organization shaking the empire.

“Why is this...”

Lien was about to ask, but stopped herself as she began to understand.

Thinking back, Ian was a bit odd.

While everyone else was paralyzed by a curse, Ian could move freely.

And that map. It contained detailed information not even the imperial elite might possess.

Ian had memorized it without any trouble.

Moreover, when Ian had invited her to leave the village with him, she had immediately accepted. But later, curious about his purpose, she asked Ian.

Ian had awkwardly dodged the question, only saying there was a need to gather strength for some grand purpose.

Traveling far and wide to gather strength, recruiting allies, and yet, the purpose remained unclear.

But now, everything made sense.

Knowing such information, hesitating to speak of his purpose, possessing some inexplicable ability—all these elements fitting together made it even stranger that Ian wasn’t the leader of the Black Fangs.

“Whatever feelings you may harbor towards Ian, they don’t matter to me.”

Siel spoke sincerely.

Her love was simple. She just wanted the other person to be happy. She would be content if she could make him smile, even if it meant sacrificing everything.

Therefore, she could ignore the tightness in her chest every time she saw that woman and the strange emotions wriggling inside her if it was for Ian’s sake.

The situation was quite perilous. Siel had managed to deal with those trying to uncover the organization’s identity so far, but it was becoming increasingly difficult.

The empire’s vigilance against the Black Fangs was growing stronger.

Now, it was beyond Siel’s ability to handle alone.

And if, by some chance, someone were to discover the organization’s true nature, Ian would be in danger.

That was something that must be avoided at all costs.

“Are you prepared?”

Siel asked Lien.

She was asking if she was truly ready to join in this dangerous endeavor.

But it was a meaningless question.

Lien knew, and she would never forget.

The foolishly warm boy who had saved her when they first met, the man who had risked his life for her.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Lien nodded.

Thus, the secret organization, unknown even to its leader, welcomed a new member.

*****

Instead of the tattered clothes I’ve been wearing all this time, neat attire that wouldn’t attract too much attention in the capital, and medicinal herbs for Siel.

After completing my shopping spree, I returned to the adventurers’ guild with my hands full.

And then it hit me.

Something I had forgotten.

‘...Right, they don’t know each other, do they?’

The meeting of friends of a friend. The awkwardness when the common link is missing. I had a rough idea of what state they might be in now.

I had a somewhat similar experience myself.

Even Siel, no matter how much one tries to sugarcoat it, isn’t exactly the most sociable.

It’s hard for her to even hold a proper conversation with someone she’s just met.

She must be having a tough time, I thought, as I quickly went to find them.

And there they were, Siel and Lien, somehow managing to chat away.

...Strange. Did they hit it off?

Or perhaps Siel’s social skills have miraculously improved over the past few weeks?

Either way, it’s a good turn of events.

I waited for a moment, not wanting to interrupt their conversation, and then walked up to them when the timing felt right.

Their attention shifted to me.

Instinctively, I knew it was the right moment.

“Let’s head to the imperial capital. There’s someone we need to meet there.”

With that, I began to outline the plan.

The abrupt suggestion to head to the capital, coupled with the idea of sneaking into someone’s house because we couldn’t enter as official guests, was the biggest issue at hand.

How could I explain the need for such a plan when I couldn’t possibly tell them that my knowledge came from an internet article I read before being transported to this world?

Before, I could at least make up an excuse about collecting poisonous herbs for a mission in the mountains.

But now, I had to convince them to break into a noble’s mansion without a solid reason, a plan so outrageous it bordered on insanity.

It was bound to be a massive hassle. And yet...

“When do we leave?”

Siel asked.

Lien didn’t seem too perturbed either, nodding as if she had been expecting this all along.

A smile naturally formed on my lips.

I knew they were good people, and we had built up a certain level of trust, but I hadn’t expected their loyalty to extend this far.

They were willing to follow such a plan without even questioning the reason?

It was almost moving.

“Let’s leave right now.”

I said, handing them the outfits I had prepared in advance.

Due to budget constraints, all I could manage were some drab black hoods. But they were still less conspicuous than tattered, hole-ridden clothes.

Draped in black hoods, we looked out at the city that sparkled even in the dead of night.

The imperial capital.

Our next destination.

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